Fathers, Shooters, and Good Men: A Call to Action

[This piece was originally shared on The Good Men Project 6/19/2016]

Growing up, there were parts of my childhood that were unique in ways that I would not realize until later in life. Some of the hallmarks of raising a young black boy on the south-side of Chicago these days were absent from my world. Today, I’m especially thinking about the role of my father in shaping how I exist in the world.

“Boys will be boys” and the now popular “man up” were not the kind of phrases I heard as a kid. I was never encouraged to fight with my fists. When my parents disciplined me, it never involved physical punishment like spankings or punches. Life was not always easy but on the days when I felt overwhelmed, they never shamed for crying in response. As I look back, I am profoundly grateful that my father was different.

Toxic masculinity—the idea that being a man means we have to carry ourselves in ways that are harmful to others and ourselves for the sake of living out some unrealistic ideal of what “being a man” is all about.

Before he passed away, my father stood six feet tall and weighed well over 200 pounds. He always wore a goatee and while he was generally a gentle giant, one would not presume that from looking at him. His voice had a certain rasp to it from when he was a smoker, but he didn’t say much. He was also a bit of a geek: a Star Trek fanatic and computer nerd long before home computers were ubiquitous. He was married to my mom, a woman I would grow to understand as a feminist and someone who stands up for what she believes. I saw them disagree plenty of times but I never saw my dad place his status as a man over her as a woman. As a kid, I had no reference for why women would be treated any differently than men, but if I saw it, I knew it was wrong.

What I have come to realize is that I grew up somewhat sheltered from our culture of toxic masculinity—the idea that being a man means we have to carry ourselves in ways that are harmful to others and ourselves for the sake of living out some unrealistic ideal of what “being a man” is all about.

My father was different and raised me differently, as a result. As I grew into an adult, I slowly had my eyes opened to the various ways I experience injustice and discrimination, first as a black man, then as a gay man. I am thankful that I never felt undue pressure about who I am at home. I came out as gay at 18 years old and I remember telling my parents last, in part because I was least worried about them accepting me. I was always loved, always encouraged — even as an artsy/creative kid who sometimes did lip-synch performances to Patti LaBelle in the living room on the stage that I built for such entertainment. My parents supported me to freely play, create, build, perform, and explore in ways that were safe.


Out of Orlando Florida, we are slowly receiving details about a man who took the lives of 49 others in a LGBTQ nightclub on June 12, 2016. The media was quick to share details of his life, including ways that he might be described as homophobic. We have heard that his father was very strict and he has been accused of beating his ex-wife. Later we found out that he attended this nightclub regularly for as long as three years before his killing spree and that he has used a gay dating app to talk to at least one person. As the narrative expands, there are speculations that he may have been gay or bisexual himself and struggling with deeply internalized homophobia. On social media and in the news this tragedy sparks heated debates about gun control, the role of religion and its impact on LGBTQ people, Islamophobia, and who should be scrutinized in this country.

The idea that men are instinctively predatory and violent and that the burden of resisting that nature rests on the abused is enshrined in our culture.

One particular theme that surfaces in the debate is about men, specifically, “men are dangerous.” Is it white men who have committed the majority of mass shootings in the country or is it Muslim men who we are told have pledged themselves to ISIS? Just weeks ago, the debate was about predatory men pretending to be transgender to gain access to women’s bathrooms so that they can attack women. We’ve also queried what should happen to men who have sex when the person cannot consent—which is rape—and what should happen to the perpetrator. Many people defending this kind of assault with the phrase “that’s just the way men are.” These issues are the fruit of toxic masculinity. The idea that men are instinctively predatory and violent and that the burden of resisting that nature rests on the abused is enshrined in our culture.

These issues are the fruit of toxic masculinity. The idea that men are instinctively predatory and violent and that the burden of resisting that nature rests on the abused is enshrined in our culture.

We may never fully know all the details of what made the killer at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando choose to commit such a devastating act or why some men rape. We can look critically at how we participate in our culture and make changes for the better. This call is not to say that everyone needs to be raised the same way as me. This is a call to action, for us to ask hard questions about how we raise our boys and make sure that we are not participating in a culture that creates violent, abusive killers.


Toxic masculinity affects us all from how we raise boys to the culture that created the shooter at Pulse Orlando. This is a call for us to change our culture and to make space for every man to be a good man.

As a society, we need to make space for men who are different: men who live differently, who follow a different religion or none at all, who dress differently, who speak differently, who come from different countries or speak different languages. We need to make space for men who create and perform, men who play a sport, men whose bodies are large or small, men who like heels and a blouse and men who like fitted baseball caps and hoodies. We need to include men who are in the gender and sexual minorities and majority. We need to make space for men to have a full range of emotions and expressions: to cry and to laugh, to sing and to shout, to be silent and to speak, to live and to love fully.

We can be men who do good, who own our failures and make amends. Men who dismantle abusive cycles and make the world better with love.

In the wake of this tragedy and as I consider how best to honor the memory of my father this Father’s Day, I’m digging deeper into being the man who made my father proud before he died. I have invested the last 16 years of my life working against injustice by speaking up and taking action to make our world better for everyone. We don’t have to be the kind of men who lead by intimidation and brute force. We can be men that lead with love and compassion, men who treat others the way we want to be treated. We can be men who do good, who own our failures and make amends. Men who dismantle abusive cycles and make the world better with love. Let us do the hard work of learning and living out what it means to be good men.


Blogging LIVE from the Road “If You’re Out There”

I’m on the road now with three friends heading to Tylertown, Mississippi for the funeral of the father of a good friend of ours.  I’m having a bit of a geek moment enjoying the fact that I’m on my laptop with internet access thanks to AT&T and the iPhone (only getting Edge coverage though… but it’s good enough!).

We’re only about an hour and a half into being on the road for real (made a few stops before really getting moving).  We’ve already had one great road trip song: “if you’re out there” by John Legend.  I hadn’t heard the song since the time of the election – but we certainly went to church in the car listening to it!

I’m going to try and check in from time to time even though this will only be a short trip.  We’ll be right back on the road coming home to Chicago after the funeral.   In the mean time, I’m going to attempt to get some of this backlog of work done.  For now, check out the video and I’ll talk to you guys soon!

Family Reunion 2009 Slideshow

I’ve created a slideshow of all the fun we had on July 4th.  ENJOY!  I really wanted to have this finished and burned to a DVD to show on the big high-def plasma screen – but the video finished rendering about 5 minutes too late!

It was so wonderful to reconnect with my family this weekend.  I’ve never valued these connections so much before.  In a lot of ways, I just didn’t know how.  I’ve got to intergrate being with my family more into my life!!!

Anyway 🙂 leave comments and share what you did with your family or friends this Holiday.

Independence Day with Family

This is awesome! It’s about 5am and I’m just laying down for bed. I’m in Indiana for the weekend visiting family and I didn’t realize it but I need this so much! Growing up I kept a certain distance from them wihout totally realizing it.
We watched a huge professional fireworks display put on by a few neighbors for the entire neighborhood earlier this evening. I’m not sure what is planned for the rest of the weekend but I’m looking forward to it. Sorry for the not so awesome photo of the pyrotechnics – I left my camera in the house and the iPhone isn’t great at capturing fireworks – lol

Oh – and I’m also publishing this from my iPhone, which I will write a review of later.

A Time To Heal

Last night in our music team rehearsal, there was a great time of sharing.  A common theme was family – there were all kinds of family situations at various states.  Right now, most of my blood related family lives in other states.  A few weeks ago I was renewed in my need to start working through the messy details of my own family.  One step was talking to my mom (sent an e-mail) about several things that I’ve wanted to ask about but didn’t want to stir difficult emotions by bringing them up.  She let me know where she was with those things and it freed me to do whatever I felt I needed in my relationships with my other family members.  In many ways I still don’t know how everything is going to work out, but I’m beginning a new chapter and hopefully can begin to build and restore some connections.

My Aunt (center) with two other relatives.

God is working on all of us.  This morning my Aunt (my Father’s sister) called me.  Things have been difficult since the passing of my father (her brother) in 2003.  Both my mom and I were already facing some financial hardships and his passing was completely unexpected.  Our family often keeps messy situations private, so my mom and I chose to quickly and quietly deal with his arrangements and estate.  What I didn’t realize at the time is how much that hurt my aunt.  There’s probably volumes more to this story that I don’t know about as well, but it was at least a year later before my aunt began to share with me her pain.  That was rough because I was dealing with so much un-processed pain at the time myself.  I was amazed to know that she was so affected and that’s why we hadn’t talked. It was then that I realized just how connected my family is. When my aunt called this morning, she was calling to let me know that she wants to start fresh and that she’s sorry we haven’t been in touch.  I wish I could have hugged her right through my cell phone.  I don’t want to continue in the patterns of silence that we’ve maintained for so long.

Individually everyone of us could be bleeding to death in the same room, but as long as we can keep it to ourselves, no one would ever mention it to the other.  In retrospect, my Dad had emotional pains as well, that unless absolutely necessary – he wasn’t going to bring up.  It’s just the way we deal with things – inside.  Unfortunately it caused us to love each other but from a distance.  For me, I grew up knowing I was loved, but that the ‘bad parts’ of me needed to be kept locked away until I ‘fixed’ them on my own.  It’s what all of us did so I didn’t think it was anything less than normal.  It’s only in my adult years after growing closer to some other families that I realize that what I grew up with isn’t the de facto standard of human civilization.  That some families go through everything together good and bad.  That I could intern be loved / accepted with my good and bad showing – novel concept for me. 🙂

All of this is new for me.  I’m thankful for the beginning of reconcilliation.  I feel so strongly that this is our time to heal.

Had a Blast! Photos from My Birthday Dinner

My 29th Birthday celbreation was wonderful!  I received dozens of notes on both MySpace and Facebook as well as had a wonderful time celebrating the beginning of a new year of life with friends!

It’s late, so I hope to write more later.  Thanks again everyone!

Thoughts of my Father…

I’m missing my Dad right now.

I just finished leaving a comment for a friend who’s father passed about 3 months ago.  In sharing with him parts of my story, I’m realizing that it was this time of year in 2003 when my own father passed.

I just tried to call my Aunt (my Dad’s sister) who I haven’t been in touch with much.  I feel like they want me to call them and specifically my grandmother more – and I agree that I should.  But it’s creating a tension that I don’t know how to deal with.  When my father passed unexpectedly, there were messy situations in our home that rather than expose, my mom and I chose to deal with them privately and quietly.  Unfortunately this caused my fathers family to feel excluded – something I didn’t find out about until a year after he passed.  Even then, I wasn’t in a place that would allow me to really deal with the complexities of my life and relationships.

I wish I had an easy answer right now.  I’ve noticed about myself that I want to end everything on a positive note.  To an extent nothing is wrong with that – I just have to be able to deal with things that won’t have a good outlook – right away.

Heavenly Father,
I need your help.  I have so many emotions and situations whirling around me right now.  I know these feelings are only temporary.  Help me to see and feel you now – to focus and be centered on you.  Grant me the peace that surpasses my understanding of these situations.  God I’ll trust in you.
Thank you for my earthly Father – who those limited and human set a beautiful example of  your unconditional love.  Thank you for the love that you put in his heart for me.  For how he did his best to be present and loving in my life.  Thank you Lord… for Darryl Kingsly Calhoun.

dad and me

A Song of Strength

Today at church I passed around 3 cards for various members of our music team who are having difficult times right now.  Two are grieving the loss of family members.  While I’m passing those cards around I hear that one of my dear friends went to the hospital with chest pains yesterday.  There are some seasons where it seems that the difficulties just come out of nowhere.  I was writing to one of the friends who lost their mom this weekend.  It reminded me of when my own father died.

My father passed unexpectedly in his sleep in 2003.  He lived alone and was found by a friend after he passed.  Both me and my mom didn’t have cell phones during that time which left his side of the family without a way to contact us.  We almost didn’t find out except that someone remembered where I went to church at the time and came and found me there on Sunday morning.  As soon as I heard the news it was almost like a movie that I was watching happening… it was just surreal to me.  In several ways, God has been preparing me for his passing since 1999.  I couldn’t leave my Dad without saying I loved him or gave him a hug.  If I did leave, I would get this prompting to remember that this could be the last time I see him.  So when my aunt tells me that my father has passed it’s like “wow… ok… here it is… this is reality now”.

In a lot of ways I was already “ok” with it.  He had some health issues (Diabetes and a congestive heart condition) but he was doing fine – he had plans to go to the movies the next day.  He was only in his 50’s.  We’d started spending random time together, catching a movie and talking about his memories growing up.  We’d begun to work through some of the difficulties in how we bonded and showed each other love.  God renewed our relationship.  Some things that came out of that restoration I didn’t realize until at least a year after he passed: He was proud of me. To this day, that realization gives me strength like nothing else anyone has ever said to me.  I’ll write more about that later.

One thing that helped me through the time after he passed was the song: “A Song of Strength” by Fred Hammond.


[ Verse 1: ]
What do you do
When the life you’ve
planned is shattered
What do you say
When the one you love is gone
How do you live
Seems like no hope for tomorrow
Pain doesn’t care where you
live or who you are

[ Chorus: ]
Lord You see my life is broken
And I don’t know what to do
While I’m in this
change, help me remain
I will count on You, oh, oh
When I can’t see, I know You’ll guide
When I cry out, I know You feel
Now I’m praying, I know You hear
I’m praying for healing, I know You will

[ Verse 2: ]
Who do you call
When no one has the answer
Where do you go
When the place you’ve know is no more
When will they stop
All the tears they just keep falling
Pain doesn’t care where you
live or who you are

[ Repeat Chorus ]

[ Channel ]
We ask you to forgive
And we will do the same
We receive Your love
Lord we’ll take time to heal

[ Vamp ]
Hold on and wait just a little while
He’ll bring a song of
strength in the midnight
Touch our lives with Your loving Hand
Hold on, we’ll hold on

Hold on and wait just a little while

I hope that you find encouragement and strength in your difficult midnight hours. –Darren